If you’ve ever perused the aisles of Whole Foods or Erewhon, or pored over an issue of Goop, you may have seen fish oil touted as a cure-all for all manner of health issues, from heart disease to depression to diabetes. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for healthy eating, there are many scientifically proven benefits of fish oil, and most people should consider adding it to their diet. In fact, it is the third most widely used dietary supplement in the United States.
Read on to learn what fish oil is and what the top benefits of fish oil are.
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is a supplement readily available at health food stores in soft gel capsule form, derived from the tissues of cold-water, fatty fish. It is a concentrated source of omega-3 fats, also known as n-3 fatty acids or ω-3 fatty acids. Fish oil can also be sourced directly from fish themselves, so those who consume a high amount of fatty fish don’t tend to require the supplements.
Why do you need fish oil?
To understand why you need fish oil, you must understand why you need omega-3 fats.
According to a research conducted at Harvard University, deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids is one of the top causes of death in America, and one of three dietary risks with the largest mortality rates, claiming up to 96,000 lives each year.
Omega-3 fats are considered essential fats, i.e. the body can’t make them from scratch, so we must get them from food or supplements. They are an integral part of our cell membranes, affecting the function of cell receptors, assisting hormones that regulate blood clotting, inflammation, and contraction and relaxation of artery walls. Omega-3s also help the heart to beat steadily, rather than erratically, which can be dangerous or fatal. They also lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve the functionality of blood vessels.
Fish oil specifically contains two especially important types of omega-3s: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), often referred to as marine omega-3s because they come from fish. If you’re not getting your DHA and EPA from fatty fish varieties like herring, wild-caught salmon, white fish, anchovies, or sardines, you should add a fish oil supplement to your diet. Another reason to consider supplements: cold-water fish varieties are often contaminated with mercury and pesticides, which can make it difficult to get your recommended levels of fish oil from fish consumption safely.
Here are some of the top benefits of fish oil: